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Atlanta Police arrest 35 people after destruction of construction equipment at ‘Cop City’ site

Crime and public safety DeKalb County Metro ATL Trending

Atlanta Police arrest 35 people after destruction of construction equipment at ‘Cop City’ site

Surveillance footage showing the destruction of construction equipment at the Atlanta Police training center site. Image provided by Atlanta Police

This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County, GA — A protest of the new police training center site in DeKalb County resulted in 35 arrests after activists allegedly set fire to construction equipment and attacked police officers.

The Atlanta Police Foundation is constructing an 85-acre police/fire training facility located in DeKalb County’s South River Forest, called “Cop City” by activists. The location has historically been the Old Atlanta Prison Farm site.

According to Atlanta News First, officials say around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, a group of protesters left an event that was not far away from the site of the proposed Atlanta public safety training center. They then headed to the site armed with dangerous items, including fireworks, big rocks, Molotov cocktails, and other devices.

No officers were injured during the demonstration. A press release from the police department calls the demonstrators “agitators.”

“The illegal actions of the agitators could have resulted in bodily harm. Officers exercised restraint and used non-lethal enforcement to conduct arrests,” the police department said in a press release. “With protests planned for the coming days, the Atlanta Police Department, in collaboration with law enforcement partners, have a multi-layered strategy that includes reaction and arrest. The Atlanta Police Department asks for this week’s protests to remain peaceful.”

APD says the “agitators” destroyed some construction equipment by fire and vandalism.

“On March 5, 2023, a group of violent agitators used the cover of a peaceful protest of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center to conduct a coordinated attack on construction equipment and police officers. They changed into black clothing, entered the construction area, and began to throw large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers,” Atlanta Police said in an update on March 6. “35 agitators have been detained so far.”

The Georgia State Patrol and Motor Carrier Compliance Division assisted Atlanta Police with a “group of people criminally trespassing in the area of Key Road and Bouldercrest Road (in the vicinity of the future APD Training Center),” a press release from the Department of Public Safety states.

“As Troopers responded to the area, rocks and improvised explosive devices were thrown at their patrol cars.  The group set up roadblocks and barricades on Key Road using tires and other debris as well as started a brush fire,” the press release says. “The group of people fled to the wooded area where they began shooting fireworks at the Troopers and attempted to blind them by shining green lasers at their eyes.”

Troopers and police officers entered the wooded area and 31 people were taken into custody. Of which, 29 were turned over to APD and DeKalb County Police. Seventeen were charged with domestic terrorism and 14 were charged with criminal trespass.

According to a press release from activists, multiple police agencies raided a local family-friendly music festival at a park within the Weelaunee Forest. The event was held on the second day of a week of action to protect the Weelaunee Forest and “stop Cop City,” the press release states. This is the fifth week of action for the activists.

About 1,000 people gathered for the music festival. But a separate group marched to the forest near the Old Prison Farm, according to the press release. The march was in response to the death of Manuel “Tortuguita” Esteban Paez Teran, 26, on who was shot and killed by police on Jan. 18 near the site. The press release also confirms there were reports of construction vehicles and surveillance equipment being set on fire.

Here is the full press release:

ATLANTA, GA. Last night, multiple police agencies dressed in militarized gear and armed with lethal weapons raided a local family-friendly music festival in a public park within the Weelaunee forest. They used excessive force to arrest dozens of concert-goers and threatened to shoot people in the park. The event was being held on the second day on the fifth Week of Action to protect the Weelaunee (Atlanta) Forest and stop Cop City.

Around a thousand people gathered in a field among the trees in Weelaunee Forest for a second day of the music festival to listen to musicians perform, catch up with friends, enjoy an inflatable bounce house and share food.

A separate protest group with hundreds of people marched to the forest near the Old Prison Farm, the site leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation for Cop City. The march was in response to the murder of activist Tortuguita and a move to reclaim the Weelaunee Forest as a public commons. There are reports of construction vehicles and surveillance equipment being set on fire.

Sometime after this action, police retaliated viciously by raiding the entire forest, arresting at least 35 people at the nearby music festival, including people with no connection to or awareness of the action on the other side of the nearly 600 acre forest.

People attending the festival say police tased concert-goers who were moving away from the commotion, tackled people to the ground and threatened to use lethal force. One cop reportedly kept an indigenous concert-goer in a chokehold while fully on top of them. Another eyewitness reports that a police officer of unknown agency said, “I swear to God I will fucking kill you” to civilians in Weelaunee People’s Park (Intrenchment Creek Park). The Atlanta Community Press Collective reports that tear gas and pepper balls were used on people during arrests.

Despite this indiscriminate and violent attack by the police, the festival continued for over an hour with the crowd chanting “Stop Cop City” and “the show must go on” between musical acts. Then, an army of police forces, without warning, raided the festival en masse. Unicorn Riot reports that officers surrounded the inflatable bounce house, pointed guns inside and later tore it down. The heavily-armed officers then surrounded the remaining crowd, which included children, and deployed LRAD (acoustic warfare equipment). The police threatened to arrest all of the music festival participants on domestic terrorism charges.  In defense, festival-goers, park-goers, children, and musicians stuck together and chanted, “We have children here!” and “Let us go home!”. According to the Atlanta Community Press Collective, after festival-goers demanded to be released, the police checked identification cards of those leaving the forest. Multiple legal observer were detained and one legal observer was arrested.  Several musicians were arrested as well. Additionally, multiple reporters were threatened with arrest by police. According to DeKalb County jail records, at least 22 people have been charged with domestic terrorism.

There have been many additional reports of police aggression that are still being confirmed.  The Atlanta Solidarity Fund stated, “Indiscriminate police violence tonight against Stop Cop City festival-goers. Police seem to be lashing out at anyone present at the music festival. Music is not a crime, protest is not a crime. People lawfully exercising first amendment rights cannot be held criminally liable for the actions of others. “

“Cop City will never be a legitimate project. It continues to be widely opposed by Atlantans. The civil rights violations committed by police yesterday reaffirms that this cop training facility should never be built. We stand steadfast in our conviction to build a new world in which all people are safe from police terror,” says an organizer who wishes to remain anonymous.

To support those arrested, please visit https://atlsolidarity.org/ and donate to the bail fund.

Today, the Week of Action continues with a Faithworkers/Clergy Press Conference and city council address at noon, forest tours in the afternoon, a Purim celebration in the evening, and more. You can visit https://defendtheatlantaforest.org/calendar/
for a full schedule.

Twenty-three people were charged with domestic terrorism. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is the charging agency, according to Atlanta Police. Here is the list of those who were arrested:

– Jack Beaman of Georgia.

– Ayla King of Massachusetts

– Kamryn Pipes of Louisiana

– Maggie Gates of Indiana

– Ehret Nottingham of Colorado

– Alexis Paplai of Massachusetts

– Timothy Bilodeau of Massachusetts

– Victor Puertas of Utah

– Dimitri LeNy of France

– Amin Chaoui of Virginia

– James Marsicano of North Carolina

– Samuel Ward of Arizona

– Max Biederman of Arizona

– Mattia Luini of New York

– Emma Bogush of Connecticut

– Kayley Meissner of Wisconsin

– Luke Harper of Florida

– Grace Martin of Wisconsin

– Colin Dorsey of Maine

– Fredrique Robert-Paul of Canada

– Zoe Larmey of Tennessee

– Thomas Jurgens of Georgia

– Priscilla Grim of New York

Reporter Zoe Seiler contributed to this story. 

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